Government’s care for elderly provisions “need timetable”

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Critics of government plans to introduce a cap on the amount people pay for their social care in later years have said the proposals do not go far enough and a timetable is needed.

Care of the Elderly - Care Home Fees

In July 2011 economist Andrew Dilnot put forward plans to improve social care for the elderly in a review – the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said the proposals could be introduced during this Parliament. The legislation would cover both care for the elderly and also those registered as disabled.

However, the Labour Party has called the plans “meaningless” unless a timetable and more details are given – and Age Concern has said that the proposals are “not nearly enough” to tackle the problem of social care for the elderly and who pays for it.

In Scotland, care in later years is provided free of charge – the new government proposals for England include a £35,000 cap on what individuals pay for social care in their own homes or care home costs before state help is offered.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said, however:

“A cap is meaningless if there is no plan to deliver it – how is it going to be paid for? What is the timetable to put it in place?"

Care Minister Paul Burstow said that the Labour Party had failed to tackle the problem when in office and that the government would “spell out in detail” how the current system would be reformed to provide care for the elderly in line with 21st century requirements.

The cost of care for the elderly is set to increase as more people live longer and require a range of care to cope with illness in older age. It is estimated around half will require care costing more than £20,000 – and one-tenth will require care costing more than £100,000.

Chairman of the Care & Support Alliance Simon Gillespie said:

"People understand that it's got to be a shared contribution between the overall taxpayer, but also individuals as well."

The current assets threshold for state help is set at £23,250 – the Dilnot review suggests this be set at £100,000, with £35,000 as the lifetime cap on costs – roughly one-third of assets.

Councils now spend around £14 billion on social care – and this could spiral from the extra £1.7bn envisaged under the new proposals, to double that as more baby boomers require social care packages as they age.

Many critics of the government’s proposals fear the changes will not actually be implemented because of cost. The coalition government is expected to agree in principle the cap on social care costs this week.

The average care home fees range from £400 to £750 a week and if a person is need of specialist care such as dementia the costs can range from £800 to £1,400 per week. With an aging population and with people living longer one questions whether what is on offer is adequate at all.


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